By Mark Clark
Just about every list of the “Best Sports Stories of 2017” is identical – and wrong. That last part is just my opinion as is the norm when I write a column to fill this space in the Citizen of East Alabama each week. The reason it is my opinion is because it is my column.
I am sure most of you will agree that you too have an opinion. It may be a better opinion than the one I express each week. When you see the list of stories that are the most common ones listed by various sources, I think you will find them in conflict with your own opinions. Let’s see if I am correct.
The top story listed by most sources is the one about National Football League players who knelt during the National Anthem saying they are just expressing their free-speech rights and trying to bring attention to social injustices. Most critics say the players are disrespecting the flag, the country and the military. Colin Kaepernick, the player who started these pre-game demonstrations, sued the NFL because no team signed him. He alleged the team owners were joining together to punish him for his actions.
The second story most listed is the one about college basketball coming under the microscope after a federal investigation revealed corruption involving the recruiting process.
The third story on most lists is one about the Houston Astros wining their first World Series. The Astros won the series over the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games. The victory lifted the spirits of the city of Houston which had been devastated by Hurricane Harvey.
The next story – listed at No. 4 – is one about the New England Patriots winning Super Bowl LI over the Atlanta Falcons. The Patriots overcame a 28-3 halftime deficit to win the first Super Bowl game to play an overtime period. And, 39-year-old quarterback Tom Brady won his fourth Super Bowl MVP award in a season that began for him with a four-game suspension because of a little situation known as “Deflate gate.”
The president of USA Gymnastics resigning over a sexual abuse scandal comes in at No. 5 among the best sports stories ranked in 2017. The scandal included revelations by some of the sport’s biggest stars that they were victims of the abuse.
Perhaps my favorite story listed is the sixth place story about Russia being banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics for a massive doping scheme at the 2014 Sochi Games. Now if they will just ban them from the Summer Olympics for the same reason, I will be even happier.
Now, perhaps my least favorite story to make the list is Clemson defeating Alabama for the National Championship in college football in January of this year. Clemson mounted a last-second comeback to erase a last-minute comeback by Alabama to win the title. It was, however, one of the greatest college football games for the championship title ever.
At No. 8, the United States failed to qualify for soccer’s World Cup for the first time since 1986.
Kevin Durant leading the Golden State Warriors to the National Basketball Association championship over the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers is the ninth story listed by most sources.
And, the tenth story on the list is Mixed Martial Arts star Connor McGregor stepping into the boxing ring to face undefeated champion Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Now, look back over the list and see if you agree with the stories selected. I agree with some of the stories making the list. I do not agree with the order in which they were listed. I would move No. 4 to No. 2, No. 3 would remain at No. 3 and No. 9 would move up to No. 4. What about No. 1?
The story I would have selected as No. 1 is the one about Houston Texan linebacker J.J. Watts’s collection of funds for the victims of Hurricane Harvey. Watts set up a YouCaring.com page after the hurricane’s destruction of Houston with hopes of reaching a goal of $200,000 to help its citizens. The donations exceeded the goal almost immediately and Watts increased the number to $1 million dollars. The page was set up on August 26 and by September 15 the site had received more than $37 million dollars from donors. The funds, Watts assured donors, would go directly to victims of the hurricane and not for covering administrative costs. Just to give you some idea of the magnitude of Watts efforts, the fundraiser collected about 185 times the initial goal and more than 200,000 people made donations – meaning Watts had as many donors as he expected to raise in dollars with his initial goal.
The Watts fundraising story was not listed on any of the Web sites I searched through. How could this story not have made any Top 10 Best Sports Stories of 2017? Now you see why I said the lists were wrong?
Mark Clark is a local sports writer for
The Citizen of East Alabama.